Welcome to Our Newsletter! Winter 2008
We hope the season finds you well, warm and ready for the New Year.
These are momentous times, as Alice Walker captures in her book, We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For:
“It is the worst of times because it feels as though the very Earth is being stolen from us, by us: the land and air poisoned, the water polluted, the animals disappeared, humans degraded and misguided. War is everywhere. It is the best of times because we have entered a period, if we can bring ourselves to pay attention, of great clarity as to cause and effect….We have only to open our eyes, and awaken to our predicament. We see that we are, alas, a huge part of our problem. However: we live in a time of global enlightenment. This alone should make us shout for joy.”
Securing the future is a big calling, a daunting task ahead, and it requires the best of all that we can bring to it—our healthy minds and bodies, open hearts, passionate spirits, and creative imaginations. The stakes have never been higher. Each of us has a contribution to make—we are alive on the planet now for a purpose.
At Tools for Change, we’re working with individuals and groups who feel called to step up and bring their best efforts forward in these critical transitional times. TfC provides tools for personal healing and empowerment, including Custom Applied Meditation CD’s and our new book Practical Meditations for Busy Souls. In addition there are many pages of free resources on our web site. TfC is also working with organizations and communities who are seeking to build stronger connections, vision and resiliency for the tough times ahead.
Many of us alternate between being hopeful about the possibility for real change and fearful about the future. On the one hand the American people have reached a great historical moment, choosing an African American for president. And president elect Obama is inviting input from the grassroots, another benchmark to celebrate! People across the country are in motion for change, the moment holds promise. On the other hand, climate change, peak oil and economic devastation loom before us more than ever before. We need to think in new ways and to open our imaginations to change.
Einstein tells us,“One cannot solve problems with the same consciousness that created them.” When we to slow down and reflect we can open to the intelligence of heart, intuition and imagination which may prove to be more practical now than the rational mind. Nothing is created without imagining it first. Our images are key!
Historian Fred Polak in the 1950s suggested that a correlation exists between self-defining images a society creates and the direction in which that society subsequently develops, proposing that a society’s images of itself as expressed in art, literature and popular culture is predictive of its evolution or demise. The preponderance of America’s cultural images in books, on TV or the Internet are images of violence, chaos, greed, or despair. It is crucial that we envision different ways of living on the planet and with one another so that the future ones have a place to live.
Each of us can gain inspiration from signs of hope. All over people are coming together in new ways to generate local economies, create alternative currencies, design local food production and distribution systems, design energy alternatives and build earth houses. There is a renewed growth of communities incorporating spiritual practice, healing and reconciliation into their lives. All of this promises to lead to what Howard Odum calls a “Prosperous Way Down”, and what Joanna Macy calls the "Great Turning". In future news letters, we (TfC) will be exploring these and other ways of navigating the times, including Transition Town Initiatives.
While learning how to face what is undeniably real at this moment in time, we can also learn how to envision a new world together with our families and communities, drawing on positive moments in our past--working from the inside out. In the coming months we will be hosting conversations to grapple with the challenges of the times, share vision and tap the power of spirit.
We invite you to join us for a New Year’s Circle in Seattle to look back on the past year and vision into the New Year, or if you live further away, host your own gathering (see article below). This is the first of a series of gatherings we call Circles for Change: Attending to the Times. Each Circle will help us vision into the new world and support each other to contribute our part to The Great Turning. Tools for Change dedicates our work over the next year to helping build communities of support, reflection, vision and action.
We hope you will join with us in these efforts!
In Spirit and Solidarity,
Margo Adair and Bill Aal
These are trying times! Vincent Harding tells us,
“Where there is no vision, we lose the sense of our great power to transcend history and create a new future for ourselves with others… Therefore, the quest [for a vision] is not a luxury; life itself demands it of us!”
With all the great challenges we face, it is vital that we build a wealth of positive visions because they will help move us and our communities into harmony with one another and all life on Earth.
We suggest that you start the New Year with an Energy Circle Gathering to build up your stores of positive visions with your family and community. This powerful practice enables people to tap into the power of meditation collectively. It offers a way to align with the positive forces within and around us, which in turn inspires us to live in ways that are coherent with our visions. Energy Circles work magic – participants tap deep resources of consciousness and get to play in the realm of imaginal intelligence. Energy Circles open the imagination to see what is possible and to increase the probability of what is likely. Being together in this way strengthens heart connections and builds mutual support. Invite friends over to share stories about the year past and vision into the New Year with an Energy Circle. This will “power–up” your highest aspirations. Energy Circles are great ways to start the New Year and they also help weave your community when used during the throughout rest of it.
Energy Circles are described in depth in Chapter six of Practical Meditation for Busy Souls.
Here is how a Gathering can work:
I - Sharing Stories:
First break into pairs for about 15 minutes and take turns interviewing each other. Invite the other person to:
“Tell me about something you experienced recently which gave you hope for the world. Don’t worry if it feels insignificant in the big schema of things. If, for you, it felt heartwarming and gave you hope for the world—tell me about it.”
Milk the story by asking: “What made you feel this way? What was especially heart-warming about it? Describe this in detail.”
Then the interviewer writes down one sentence from the story that describes the quality of an experience that really shined with hope for the world. Then trade roles.
After interviewing each other, the next step is for each person to take the sentence they wrote down and formulate it into an invitation for everyone to imagine a similar experience. This is done by emphasizing the quality of being that is contained in the experience, leaving out any specific names and places. So for example the line: “I was really moved by the deep care offered to Cindy.” can get translated to “There is deep caring among people.” All the statements should be simple and spark people’s imagination. It is okay if they sound corny.
II - Doing the Energy Circle:
After revising the interview quotes, you are ready to do the Energy Circle. Brief people on how the process will unfold by giving them the highlights of the process before beginning.
Sit comfortably in circle holding hands. The Energy Circle will take about 20 minutes, it often helps to rest your arms and hands on pillows to avoid any physical discomfort or restlessness.
Start the Energy Circle by suggesting something like: “As you breathe out, let go of all distractions and tensions…Breathe them out. Imagine them dropping down into the ground and being transformed by the soil…. As you inhale, like trees bringing nutrients up from the soil, bring earth energy up into your body—however you imagine it.” After a few moments say something like: “ Imagine the vast skies. Imagine that the energies in the skies were to drop down into the room and into the top of your head…. Earth and sky energies mixing inside you as they do all around us. The sky energies bring vast possibility, the earth energies bring wisdom and focus. …”
Then invite people to sense the energy moving around the Circle.
At this point, starting with the person to your left, invite each person to take a turn and read their statement and invite the entire group to imagine what that experience might feel like; remain silent for about three breaths, so everyone can conjure it up in their imagination. Then the person invites everyone to imagine the experience being common in their community, again giving some silence for people to imagine it; then giving the invitation to imagine the whole world experiencing this way of being.
Continue in this way around the circle, with each person repeating their statement and inviting everyone to first imagine it personally, then interpersonally then everywhere throughout the world. This is a time to open the imagination and make up story of how it might be if what they hear were pervasive experience through all relations. Leave a couple of breaths of silence after each suggestion to give people the space they need to sense how it would feel.
Repeat this same process for each person’s inspirational line. Periodically reinforce the group’s feeling of earth and sky energies moving through everyone and around the Circle. People can do this at the beginning of their turn. At the end of the round, bring people out of meditation with some words of gratitude.
III - Sharing Vision:
After the Circle invite people to share what they imagined. The whole process will fill people with inspirational feelings and visions. The Circle itself “powers up” the probability of their visions coming into being. When we spend time fully envisioning the world we want, we find ourselves living into them because we naturally act in ways that are coherent with our projections.
You may want to do a second Energy Circle in which people empower their personal/family resolutions for the New Year. To help people get clear about their intentions, ask them to stay in the original pairs and take turns sharing more reflections on the most meaningful experiences from last year, expressing what each person’s specific visions are for the next. These visions are then voiced in the Energy Circle in brief and positive single sentences that invite everyone to envision the resolution as though it is already happening.
See chapter 6 in Practical Meditation for Busy Souls for a full script and explanation of how to work with Energy Circles. You can also listen also to the seven minute Running Energy meditation on our web site to experience the moving of earth and sky energy though yourself.)